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[Blog] Keep Calm and Carry on (Or Why the Club is Not in Crisis from Top to Bottom)
Written by BOjK on Sunday, 21st Aug 2011 18:00

I have been reading the blog from Steve_M arguing that ITFC is in crisis from top to bottom, and I've been moved to write a reply of my own suggesting that we are not.

Things are bad on the pitch. There is no doubt about that. But I don't accept (perhaps perversely) that at the top the club is being run badly.

If you asked me what the definition of the perfect owner would be, I'd suggest one who invested money in the club, one who continued to back the manager of the club in the Ipswich tradition, and one who didn't hog the limelight. Marcus Evans does all of these. I'm aware his anonymity annoys some fans, although I find it admirable, and his fondness for tax-havens annoys me, but we could do worse. A whole lot worse.

Steve_M suggests that there is no strategy at the club - implying that there is a short-term drive to buy our way to promotion. I dispute this. There seems to be a clear strategy of employing managers with proven records of getting clubs out of this division, and letting them get on with it.

The managers choose who to buy - and so far we've had a mix of young players who allow us to build for the future (Cresswell, Martin, Priskin, Drury, Civelli, Leadbitter, JET), experienced players (Kennedy, Bowyer, Scotland, Ellington) and players in their prime (Chopra, Andrews, Delaney, Norris, McAuley). This doesn't strike me as short-termism.

Looking at the list of players signed - and especially the small army brought in by Paul Jewell - I don't recognise that Simon Clegg is doing a particularly bad job in the transfer market. The obvious transfers that have fallen through were for Chopra last season when Keane wanted him, but Cardiff wouldn't sell for anything we would (or could) pay, and Shaun Derry who decided to join a club that would pay him more money than we would (or could) pay.

The idea that Simon Clegg is somehow incapable in the transfer market seems to have been derived solely from these two failures to achieve transfers, but the truth is instead that the funding we have from Evans isn't enough to buy who we want and when, but that we have to be a bit smarter. So 12 months on, we do have Chopra - but for a considerably reduced fee- and we now have Keith Andrews in midfield instead. We'll see how they work out.

Examples of apparently excellent negotiating skills such as landing Jimmy Bullard and Gio on loan, and striking an apparently excellent deal with Swansea for them to loan Tamas Priskin are inevitably overlooked by fans who seem keen to place the blame on our chief executive.

Rather than focussing on the failure to land 100% of our transfer targets, the lack of a contract offer to Gareth McAuley 12 months ago seemed a big error at the time, and still does now. At least this is a mistake that appears to be learned from.

Further evidence that the club isn't rotten to the core comes from the continued trickle of youth teamers into the first team, with Josh Carson following in the considerable wake of Connor Wickham.

So what is going wrong? It appears that Evans is following the Cobbold model of letting the managers run the footballing side of things, and this seems an excellent way to proceed.

The problems appear to be twofold. Firstly, that the managers we have had have not been capable of spending his money wisely. This is not Evans's fault. If the signings of Priskin and Lee Martin by Roy Keane, and to a lesser extent Grant Leadbitter and Carlos Edwards, had been as successful as we'd hoped then our side would have been transformed. Jewell this summer has brought in the players whose performances will decide if his tenure at Portman Road will be judged a success or a failure. So far the judgment is mixed.

Secondly, there appears to be now - perhaps because we have some money - an idea from the management that the best strategy is to just buy newer (and therefore better) players than the ones we have. It's noticeable that after the trauma of a 1-7 defeat, Jewell's first reaction was to look to purchase even more players than he had previously indicated was necessary, rather than an insistence that the players work harder on the training ground, as one suspects George Burley would have done.

The idea of taking a side and gradually changing it seems to be anathema these days, belonging maybe to the age of 4-4-2. Why? The drive for instant success appears to come not from the board, who refuse to set a timescale by which time we hope to be in the Premier League (unlike David Sheepshanks), but instead from the fans who demand we win each game.

The same fans who campaigned for Jim Magilton to be sacked only for Evans to continue with him for another few months.

The same fans who greeted Roy Keane like a hero, only to turn on him when things went bad and who went on to chant "Keano's on the dole" with evident glee at the Chelsea game.

The same fans who were delighted with Jewell's appointment (he wasn't Roy Keane and ANYONE had to be better than him), loved Jimmy Bullard but still booed the players at the end of the Cambridge United PRE-SEASON FRIENDLY this season when we only drew 2-2 (they did - I was there), and of course at the end of every first team match since - except one.

My advice (for what it’s worth) for Jewell is to attempt change more slowly, for Simon Clegg to manage supporters' expectations better, for supporters to give the team more time to gel and stop demanding success and (in my opinion) creating the climate where managers feel such pressure to achieve instant success, and for Marcus Evans to keep calm and carry on supporting the manager and investing in our club.

Please report offensive, libellous or inappropriate posts by using the links provided.

Tractamatt added 18:30 - Aug 21
Have read both bloggs and both are well written and informed but would like to say that 'to buy more players' is not a knee jerk reaction as we have been desperately been trying to bring in at least a new central defense now and yesterday just rammed home how important this is.Also we have a massive whole in our midfeild that was left when bullard moved on, we have no creativity in the centre of the park what so ever,Jewell has also identified that chopra as excellent as he is needs a player to play of someone in the Hesky mold.But I totally agree that we need to calm down, take a step back and support the team that we all love instead of getting on their back,Confidence is at its lowest they dont need us on their backs as well.COYB

jbb added 19:03 - Aug 21
A lot of good points. I would however be critical of ME/SC and PJ on one issue, allowing the running of the club and team be influenced by fans opinions, which is often the ruination of clubs.

The club have fallen into the trap like many others, of making decisions on managers on the basis of what might give a short term boost and get the fans turning up to buy season tickets. The same may happen next spring, and the merry go round starts again.

The fans say 451 doesnt work, and even though he has left the club almost bereft of defenders, PJ complies and allows them run the team. So 12 goals are conceded in 2 games, and people are surprised? It is very disappointing that PJ was so easily influenced and didnt have the courage of his obvious conviction, and that of RK before him, that 451 is the best option with the players available.

Following RK's disastrous start to his first season in charge, the team had put a good run together, in fact the records show the points haul from late October onwards was play off form. That is fact not opinion. There cant have been that much wrong with the team. The then management were correct in identifying 2 major areas where improvements were needed, a holding midfielder and a striker, Derry and Chopra were the players chosen, but not signed. There was no major overhaul needed. But a new manager comes in, and decides a new squad is needed. Good management in my opinion is working with the players here, identifying the problem areas and bringing in players to fill those positions.

It is solely PJ's fault that the club are left with CB's of the ability of Ainsley, Smith & Delaney to fill the CB role. There is hardly another club in league football, who would find themselves in that position. He awarded contracts to two of those, Ainsley and Delaney, and let better CB's go in McAuley, O'Dea, Brown and even Eastman (superior to both Ainsley & Smith). His signings so far have been hit and miss, like most managers.

PJ has also made a major error during the past week, in telling the world that he wanted to flog Leadbitter to partly pay for JB's wages. He then retains him as captain, and expects the player to be unaffected. I rate JB, but Leadbitter is a good player and a good character, who will do well with whoever he plays.

The clubs only option now is to fully back PJ and quickly bring in the defenders he needs.


blrmy added 19:26 - Aug 21
Thank you Steve!

Radlett_blue added 20:17 - Aug 21
You talk a lot of sense. Interesting that when PJ came here he admitted that his biggest mistake had been to change too much, too quickly. On the evidence here, he doesn't appear to have learned from that mistake.

Steve_M added 20:25 - Aug 21
Glad I've helped the debate. TWTD is at it's best when intelligent, thoughtful debate is allowed space amidst the hysteria and flouncing.

To BOjK, I don't think you've really rebutted the strategy argument. Compare and contrast Sheepshanks original FIve Year Plan back in 1995 to the situation now. I don't expect fans to be told every detail of the club's thinking, nor care that we aren't. However I would expect for a man who has made his career in conferences and marketing to be a bit more PR savvy than he has been to date.

Sibelius8 added 20:28 - Aug 21
Thank you indeed for this sensible and often most pertinent analysis. Brava!

However, I fear that too many of our supporters merely rant and rave, demanding instant success, their expectations totally unmanageable by anyone, least of all Simon Clegg.

Sibelius8 added 20:36 - Aug 21
Apologies to Steve M. The previous comment should most probably read "bravo."

Lightningboy added 22:15 - Aug 21
jbb..."Leadbitter is a good player and good character"...???

Sorry but i've got to strongly disagree with you there..he has been a disaster since we chucked £3.5m away on signing him..can't tackle,can't pass - did you see that defence splitting pass yesterday? - to their striker.

I can only hope that Portsmouth are still daft enough to want to take him off us before the end of the deadline.

The fact that he is wearing our club's captain's armband just about sums up what is wrong with this club at the moment.

Lammy added 22:59 - Aug 21
If you are planning for the future you don't wait until the last year of someones contract before you renew it. jon walters has just agreed an extension to his contract when he still had three years to run. Don't blame Paul Jewell for McAuleys departure. It should have been sorted before he arrived.

brendanh added 23:08 - Aug 21
I dispute that Evans has not been short termist and is in keeping with the traditions of the club. Our recruitement strategy has been dominated by established names from the top two divisions, he has no time to wait for his managers to build a team from the raw talents of lower leaguers. Our market town in Suffolk will only ever attract mediocre names, far inferior to the hungry young players being given a chance at the likes of Norwich and Peterborough.
The bottom line is, the team's performance has worsened since Evans' arrival.

Harry_Palmer added 08:27 - Aug 22
I found Steve M's argument the more convincing of the two if i'm honest, none the less, this is still a thoughtful and well written piece and makes a nice change from some of the drivel on the message board.

hulltractor added 08:53 - Aug 22
Good debate and can see where both are coming from. The cold hard fact remains there is 9 days left to sign some defenders. Leeds are next up and having watched them yesterday against the Hammers, the likes of Gradel will rip our excuse for a back 4 to pieces once again. Can see another big defeat looming if something isnt sorted out by the weekend. Fingers crossed something will be done.

rugbytomc added 12:19 - Aug 22
very good blog - i agree with most of what you've said here BOjK

I am frustrated that Jewell came out and just said the players aren't good enough - because how do you then motivate the same 11-14 players to come out and perform in their next game? Tell them they can win it - but then in the back of their mind's they'll be thinking, hold on, this is the same bloke who said we aren't good enough!
He did this at Derby and it's like after his successes at Bradford and Wigan in getting them to the Prem and keeping them up in their first seasons, he now just expects instant success. Unfortunately, in today's highly competitive championship anyway, that is not often the case.
Of course i'd like to see some additions - right back, centre back, creative mid would be 3 (or 6 if you add 2 right backs and 2 CBs!) but i'd like to see him back the players we already have to improve and for the younger players to push for places.
I am seriously worried though that he's blown it with the team and that things will only go downhill for him and the team from here.
Of course it's too early to bring another manager in - but if we're fighting a relegation scrap by xmas - wouldn't it be worth just getting rid of Jewell and changing tack and going for an up and coming hungry manager - rather than one with past major success and who expects it rather than wants to earn it again? And maybe one with lower league experience who can help identify players who can step up a grade (although to be fair to Jewell surely that is a scout's job?)

As for the fans - I think we can all feel their frustration and at the end of the day, they pay a lot of money to go to see Ipswich so i think they should be allowed to vent their feelings. If the majority want to support the team then they need to get more vocal! "Come on Ipswich, Come on Ipswich, Come on Ipswich" ;-)

I hope we get the ball down and start playing the decent football i know we can and the players go out there and start to enjoy themselves - so we the fans can enjoy ourselves too!

Vic added 14:17 - Aug 22
Another excellent blog BOjK and I think you've identified one key thing that is very different now 9but typical of the modern game) to a few years ago. Namely the response to seek to buy more players rather than work with what we've got. Maybe it was just an emotional response from PJ but his comments after the game brough back horrible memories of the worst of RK's time here! It seems to be the way now with to many, and I agree, it's not the ME's way (lets not forget he stopped the funding for RK to keep buying players!). I like PJ and am very happy to have him as our manager, but do thing we have to stop the constant buying of new players. The vast majority of those we have are decent players and can do a decent job at this level. We do need a couple more defenders and another creative spark in midfield, PJ knows that as well as us, but other than that the real work has to be done in their minds and on the training ground - and soon or the confidence will be so shot we'll struggle to recover. However, with players like Bowyer, Andrews, Chopra, Kennedy and Stockdale we really should have enough experience to see us through this considerable wobble.
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